prayer: it makes a greater difference than we know

prayer - paper aeroplane - it makes a greater difference than we know - Joy Lenton @poetryjoy.com

So often we think of prayer like sending flimsy paper aeroplanes into the ether, where they act like drifting darts that fail to hit their intended target. But what if we saw each prayer more as an arrow that reaches straight to the heart of God? 

Might that make a difference in our willingness to pray, and encourage our hope that all prayer is heard and answered in some way? I think so. Because the bible urges us to pray at all times and in all seasons, while it declares how our prayers can rise as fragrant incense to God’s throne above.

”Our prayers may be awkward. Our attempts may be feeble. But since the power of prayer is in the one who hears it and not in the one who says it, our prayers do make a difference.” — Max Lucado

prayer - “Any concern too small to be turned into a prayer is too small to be made into a burden.” quote (C) Corrie Ten Boom @poetryjoy.com

Prayer isn’t something to be feared because of our perceived failure at it. Rather, prayer is to be welcomed as a wonderful, privileged part of our relationship with God, as we maintain an open dialogue with Him. And when we take all our worries and concerns to God, we get to experience His rest and peace.

The poem below describes the frustration we might experience when we seemingly get no answers to prayer. It also points to the biblical hope and promise we have of our prayers actually landing up where they should—straight to the loving heart of our Father God.

Paper aeroplanes

I try to shoot
paper aeroplanes
into the ether

but they fall,
floating aimlessly,
landing languidly
at my feet,

while others curve,
slither and slide
across the ceiling,

darting like flies,
getting nowhere
it seems.

I cannot see
why they don’t hit
their intended target,

pierce through layers
of fluffy cloud,
this veiled curtain

of azure blue shroud
where hope enough
exists to send them off.

I can only assume,
more and more
as time passes,

that they are too small,
deemed unworthy planes,
perhaps, tipped off

balance, somehow,
sent careening
sideways, adrift,

instead of being
faithfully received.
Yet the eyes of faith

suggest I look further,
try to see beyond
and believe

there is a place
where clouds will part,
open up for this

faithfully sent
aerial fleet,
these fragile, tentative

aeroplanes of prayer
to actually penetrate
the air, the heavens,
where they are

joyfully received above,
carefully curated,
acted upon with love.
© joylenton

prayer - Prayer is not overcoming God’s reluctance... quote (C) Martin Luther @poetryjoy.com

“Prayer lays hold of God’s plan and becomes the link between His will and its accomplishment on earth. Amazing things happen, and we are given the privilege of being the channels of the Holy Spirit’s prayer.” — Elisabeth Elliot

Where has prayer made a difference in your life or the lives of those you’ve prayed for? Let’s rejoice in it together… 🙂 ❤

courage: rising up to face life’s challenges

courage - rising up to face life's challenges @poetryjoy.com

We might think that being courageous is strictly for heroes and heroines. But we’d be wrong. Because all of us will face difficulties and challenges, need to access courage, develop resilience, and discover our inner brave as we take each small step of faith.

With God’s help, we can scale the mountains before us or find a way to go around them. Although the path might be thorny and hard, God will infuse strength and courage into our hearts. All we need do is ask.

“Nothing but encouragement can come to us as we dwell upon the faithful dealing of our Heavenly Father in centuries gone by. Faith in God has not saved people from hardships and trials, but it has enabled them to bear tribulations courageously and to emerge victoriously.” — Lee Roberson

courage - “Discouraged not by difficulties without, or the anguish of ages within quote - Helen Keller @poetryjoy.com

Courage

tugging at weeds
I disturb a sleepy beetle
he staggers out blind
moves drunkenly across grass
losing his way on hot tiles

I watch him
skittering unsteadily
like a skater
wobbling on the ice
thrown off their stride

before long
he seeks refuge again
a dark recess
lush, fresh greenery
a new, safe habitat

it doesn’t take much
a gentle tug alone
stirs us to move
out of our comfort zone
where courage awaits us

we might blink
unaccustomed
like moles in the light
having to leave behind
our familiar places

we recoil
grip tight on the usual
before reaching out
to touch the new and the next
we’re being called to embrace

eventually
however weak-kneed we feel
our fingers test walls
we probe possibilities
and find our way home
© joylenton

courage - emerging mole - courage poem excerpt (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

“Down through the centuries in times of trouble and trial God has brought courage to the hearts of those who love Him. The Bible is filled with assurances of God’s help and comfort in every kind of trouble which might cause fears to arise in the human heart. You can look ahead with promise, hope, and joy.” — Billy Graham

Where are you needing courage today, my friend? Turn to God and seek His help. God will always rise to give us strength and help us face whatever is making us afraid. Hold onto God’s promises, and wait for Him to act on your behalf as you take the first tentative steps forward. Though your heart might quake and quail, remember that His courage never fails.

PS: I have a free pdf soul care gift for you today!

< – – Just click on the image here to download it.

It’s called Soul Shots: 31 Days of Pocket Wisdom for Your Hurting Heart, and is an eclectic mix of reflections and poetry.

May it bless and encourage your heart and bring back hope when life gets hard and dark. 🙂 ❤

waiting: when desire gives way to deeper surrender

waiting - girl sitting by the roadside - when desire gives way to deeper surrender @poetryjoy.com

I’m feeling fried and frazzled in a scorching August heatwave. As I’m waiting to cool down, I’m reminded that the earth itself is incrementally heating up. We sense the stirrings of earth’s birth pangs, the longing it has for deliverance, and considered attention from its custodians.

Our own hearts (never mind our bothered bodies) can feel unsettled by a yearning for change. Because waiting is hard, isn’t it? Our society and world at large are like life on speed, with a drivenness that doesn’t sit easily with being rested, calm and at peace.

We all sit with unfulfilled desires. One of  mine is to write more books before I get too ill, too old or lose my poetic touch. I long to unleash all the creativity that lies within me, rather than sitting on dusty files which remind me that those books are not going to write themselves… get a move on, girl! Only impatience isn’t conducive to getting a good result. 😉

“In the drivenness of our society, it’s hard to make time to relax our efforts and find transforming energy. That’s why we need this particular posture of waiting so much. When we sit in this way we’re relaxing the bow; we’re coming to rest in a very deep way in God, allowing ourselves to be cradled in the sighing mystery of Christ’s prayer.”— When the Heart Waits: Spiritual Direction for Life’s Sacred Questions by Sue Monk Kidd

waiting - pocket watch - hourglass - rose - Our society and world at large are like life on speed quote (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

Desire

desire at rest
cultivated by God’s grace
in the waiting room
where we learn to still our hearts
quiet the rush, quell our thoughts

the divine promise
gets birthed and earthed in us
in God’s timing
we will finally receive
an abundance of good things

in this posture
where submissiveness counts
where trust is formed
here we mature, learn and grow
develop patience in our souls

soul detachment
enables us to let go
of our wanting
and expectancy follows
when we embrace faith and hope

freedom of desire
might feel alien to us
it’s a holy thing
where our desires and will line up
with what the Father wants for us
© joylenton

waiting - desire poem excerpt (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

“That is why waiting does not diminish us, any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother. We are enlarged in the waiting. We, of course, don’t see what is enlarging us. But the longer we wait, the larger we become, and the more joyful our expectancy” — Romans 8:24–25 The Message

May I pray for you, my friend?

Dear Father God,

Thank you for your loving and protective care of us. Our days are an open book to you because you hold past, present and future in your hands. Help us to wait with patient expectation and confident trust when we desire to forge ahead with this project or that. If we’re in a season of being slowed, grant us the ability to stay encouraged and calm, and believe for better days to come. May we learn to go with the natural rhythm and flow of our days and remain sensitive to Holy Spirit’s gentle leading and guiding.

Amen

May we remember that however far we might stray, get impatient or fail to sense His presence, God is always eagerly waiting for us to turn to Him. 😊❤️

stilling: learning to love your ordinary life

stilling - choose joy - learning to love your ordinary life @poetryjoy.com

“This is a wonderful day. I’ve never seen this one before.” — Maya Angelou

So often fear of change nibbles at our souls like a restless rat. It makes us fail to appreciate what we already have before us, right here, right now. I find myself falling into a dissatisfaction trap whenever I forget to live with mindful awareness and a joyful and grateful heart.

We can get so caught up in the challenges, fears and frustrating minutiae of life that we neglect to lift up our heads and appreciate where and how we are really situated. God is the giver of all good gifts, and He strews gifts of grace along each person’s daily pathway—but we need receptive eyes, stilled minds, and open hearts to see, sense and be thankful for them. 

Because each day presents us with an opportunity to taste joy, sense the marvellous in the mundane, express our gratitude, and give God praise for who He is and how He takes such great care of us. 

stilling - forest - trees - God is the giver of all good gifts quote (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

“So much has been given to me; I have no time to ponder over that which has been denied.” — Helen Keller

Stilling

I hold my breath—as if I could
still the clock, hold back
the swinging seasons, perhaps,

call time on winter’s
cold, dark, muffled cloak,
the icy grip of SAD that sends
me to my inner knees.

Can I not simply
still time on this moment’s
pendulum, which I prefer

to those that have gone
before? Those lockdown
days, weeks and months
of great adaptation and change.

My mind (helpfully) reminds
me that nothing stays
the same. Each dull routine

still has to yield
to the unexpected,
the suddenness of the new
or the long neglected.

Yet something in me
feels as if I want
to remain rooted in Now,

to savour summer
before it segues into autumn,
get my fill of light, of warmth,
of hope, and snatches of joy.

Then another thing
comes to my remembrance,
and I muse on the way

each day has opportunity
to receive such gifts
if I remain receptive enough

to notice, and still
my heart to not reject them.
© joylenton

stilling - dandelion clock - stilling poem excerpt (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

“As long as this exists, this sunshine and this cloudless sky, and as long as I can enjoy it, how can I be sad?” — Anne Frank

Although I frequently want to press pause on the moments I enjoy because they seem so fleeting, it isn’t a life of busy eventfulness I crave but a stilled, peaceful soul saturated in holy satisfaction, love and grace.  Keeping a daily gratitude journal helps us stay calm and content. Here are 3 things I’m grateful for:

  • having energy and focus enough to write this post
  • our tomatoes are greening at last, if not reddening yet
  • I prepared this before a scorching heatwave hit to fog my thoughts

What are you thankful for today, my friend? 🙂 ❤

reality: what helps keep us grounded and at peace

reality - trees - sky - landscape - what helps keep us grounded and at peace (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

These are deeply unsettling times we are living in, aren’t they? They make us yearn for a sense of solidity and thirst for a firm grounding beneath our feet. Perhaps it exists as a present reality, closer at hand than we might think.

Creation breathes out its beauty and begs us to receive it as soul food, as a nurturing balm to help us stay grounded and calm. Each time we pay attention to growing flowers and plants we get to observe how nature deals with its own seasons of alteration and loss.

In the tanka sequence poem below, I invite you to take a journey of the heart, a pause to consider what nature has to teach us now, what lies ahead, and how we are all connected to the past.

May you receive an awakening of hope and faith that will help ground you in the realest of realities. Namely that God is still in charge, and all things are somehow being worked out for good even as our lives feel shaken to the core.

reality - red and yellow begonias - Creation breathes out its beauty quote (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

Reality

what is real
is the soil beneath our feet
solidity
earth grounds us, holds us fast
when all else trembles into dust

the imprints
markers of every man
woman and child
who ever lived and died
are seeded, left behind

the earth
holds all our memories
in its DNA
it doesn’t forget how we lived
breathed and walked this way

every acreage
in the changing landscape
holds a legacy
it will keep the faith for us
when we are lost, faithless

reality - garden - flowers - gate - every acreage in the changing landscape holds a legacy - (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

nature sings
an eternal siren song
we strain to listen
unaccustomed to its melody
the way it reverberates and speaks

our reality
is so often shaped by lust
fuelled by greed
hot desire can set us on fire
we lose what we have coveted

we don’t need
all that much to survive
we do need
the insight to understand
just how to live, grow and thrive

reality - bee - yellow flowers - we don't need all that much to survive (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

the natural world
provides all our necessities
all we need to live
enough resources to share
if we were generous and fair

the ethereal
the mystical, intangible
lies within our reach
it’s already invaded earth
promising us new life, new birth

our souls
rooted to earth’s reality
become whole
when they are connected
to Father, Son, Holy Spirit

God made
all that is sensed and found
he gave
his life to open our eyes
to the unlimited beyond
© joylenton

reality - garden - pond - leaves - our souls rooted to earth's reality become whole (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

“The calm of a summer night
embodies Your peace, O Lord.
The beauty of a sunset
embodies Your truth, O Lord.
Everything in all creation
shouts the reality of You.”

Transformed by Love: Prayers and Reflections for All Seasons by Liz Babbs

plea: for when you are in need of prayer and help

plea - woman praying - for when you are in need of prayer and help @poetryjoy.com

Prayer can take many shapes and forms, ranging from a simple, urgent plea for help to the intricacies of formal litany and liturgy. Prayer might be silent, spoken words or repetitive chant. Whether short or long, all our prayers are heard and answered by God, usually with a “yes”, “no” or “wait”, though not always in ways we might expect.

“Our prayers may be awkward. Our attempts may be feeble. But since the power of prayer is in the one who hears it and not in the one who says it, our prayers do make a difference.” — Max Lucado

The poem I’m sharing today was birthed in a place of extra weakness, weariness, anxiety and pain. When we feel that way it’s often hard to pray, isn’t it? At such times we might prefer to let our tears speak for themselves, ask family and friends for support, or turn to the written prayers of others for inspiration and help.

If anything resonates with you in the words below, feel free to use them for yourself. I’m always happy if others can see merit in the thoughts God gives me to share. And I’m always blessed if I can encourage someone else, which we can all do by our testimony and prayers, even when we’re struggling ourselves.

A plea

oh let me rest
lean my head on Jesus’ breast
and hear God’s heartbeat
pounding softly through my days
like a metronome of grace

oh let me stay
may I faithfully remain
listen well with love
keep a vigil by his side
the best place for me to thrive

oh let me know
become wise, not shallow
learn how to live
full of compassion, like him
ready to help and to give

oh let me accept
how to live without regret
while I stretch my faith
note my own limitations
empowered by his strength

oh let me wait
when prayer seems unanswered
make space for grace
for God’s perfect timing
and sense his peace within
© joylenton

plea - oh let me know become wise, not shallow - prayer - plea poem excerpt (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

“God can handle your doubt, anger, fear, grief, confusion, and questions. You can bring everything to him in prayer.” — Rick Warren

You can pray about anything. Nothing is too small or too great to bring to God. He hears the cries of our hearts and never becomes wearied by our need of Him. If you are having a hard time of things, please let me know so I can pray for you. You could leave a message here or email me via my contact page instead. It would be an honour to support you, my friend. Blessings and love. xo ❤️🙏🏻🌺

interlinked: how mourning and joy are closer than we think

interlinked - how mourning and joy are closer than we think - girl dancing in sunlight @poetryjoy.com

“For everything there is a season. . . . a time to mourn, and a time to dance.” — Ecclesiastes 3:1, 4 NRSV

Interlinked

We mourn,
thinking we might never
rediscover joy, never
laugh or dance again,

but we are wrong
because they are all
interlinked, entwined

parts of one another,
shared segments
of our soul’s deepest needs.

While we weep
we also prepare
to dance, to feast,

although it doesn’t
necessarily cross our minds
that one could follow on,
like day follows night,

or be the shadow of the other
as we try to hold these
disparate thoughts together.

Even here,
even now, when grief needs
closure, there are glimmers,

conjoined glimpses of hope
which support and enable
us to look up,

to go on with courage,
because a slight lifting
of lockdown might signal
a slow return to peace.
(C) joylenton

interlinked - woman watching the waves - poem excerpt (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

Once we return to a semblance of normality in our nations, our “ordinary” might feel scarily different but it will have a fresh lustre and glow of grace about it too. Because we are limited in what we can do now, we appreciate the joyful, sacrosanct and sacred moments that exist and long to keep them fixed in our hearts.

“Mourning and dancing, grief and laughter, sadness and gladness—they belong together as the sad-faced clown and the happy-faced clown, who make us both cry and laugh. Let’s trust that the beauty of our lives becomes visible where mourning and dancing touch each other.” — Henri Nouwen, in Faith That Matters: 365 Devotions from Classic Christian Leaders

Maybe we will dance in our hearts or gardens, if not in the streets. Like a butterfly being joyfully released to fly freely, instead of being restrained and shut away, confined to a limited environment, mourning the freedom it has lost.

A lingering sadness and wariness will exist because so much has changed, so many lives have been cut painfully short, so many of us are in a prolonged recovery mode. We will need faith and trust to carry us through the days of difference that lie ahead.

“I have told you all this so that you will have peace of heart and mind. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows; but cheer up, for I have overcome the world.” — John 16:33 TLB

Where are you seeing glimpses of joy during these unsettled times? What makes your heart sing or helps keep you comforted and calm? 🙂 ❤

calm: practising gratitude during the pandemic

What if we refused to join in with the grumbles, moans and complaints on the internet and other place during the pandemic, even in our own homes, perhaps? We could choose to keep calm, encourage others, and speak of hope, faith and love in adverse circumstances.

How can we best support our souls during these stressful and strange Covid-19 days? Maybe by enjoying the little things: feed our faith, practise gratitude, aim to savour extra time with our loved ones, rest for our health’s sake, maintain our creativity, and withdraw from information overload and overwhelm.

We can pray for family and friends,  health care workers and governments, as well as the world situation in general. Another thing that might help keep us sane, especially if we can’t exercise, is stepping outside now and then for a slow, 30 seconds or more, fresh air inhale/exhale.

Because nature has healing powers. Yes, even if our garden or balcony growing space is a tiny or weed-ridden plot! 🙂 Size doesn’t matter. What counts is seeing living greenery.

Creation’s calming beauty helps soothe our frazzled souls, and opens our hearts to the simple gratitude of being alive. I always appreciate rare days when I can get outside for a while because enjoying the little things counts.

converse - landscape - hills - sky - sunset - Creation's calming beauty helps soothe our frazzled souls quote (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

Life in the time of the coronavirus

I hear the flaxen-haired toddler
from two doors away
chattering nineteen to the dozen

as I peg light laundry to line, with sun
warming my arms for the very first time
this year, this spring, in a sudden
burst of seasonal heat.

She is running, running, running
the length of her small garden
and back again, as if her tiny feet

don’t know how to stop
their forward momentum, their racing
along to an inner beat.

We’re meant to be avoiding others
as our country struggles
with the coronavirus and its effects,
and I think we are far enough apart

even though I can just make out
the top of her hurrying head
across our low garden walls.

Her parents smile up at me and speak
in their broken English, nuanced
as it is with a Polish dialect,

while I reply and smile at them
and watch their delightful
little daughter running again.

Such sacred holy ordinary moments
still exist but we have to make
a deliberate effort

to notice them and let our anxieties
slip, as we converse at a distance
with the international language
of hope and joy and love and peace.
© joylenton

calm - woman looking out a window -practising gratitude during the pandemic (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

Gratitude helps us appreciate all our days, whatever they might bring to us. Because the altitude of our hearts determines the attitude we will have.

If we’re able to live more in the moment, then we can welcome it, whether outwardly good or bad, as we seek to live with our eyes open to the potential it might bring.

You might benefit from these 10 soul care suggestions for maintaining calm. Brother David Stendl-Rast also offers a glimpse of how we can be gratefully mindful for each new day.

What’s helping you feel more like a human being and less like a potential repository for a horribly invasive virus? What’s aiding you to stay calm and keeps you on an even keel in these shaky, uncertain times? Do share below so we can help one another.

window: finding an opening for joy to flourish

window - blinds - sunset - trees - what your longings and feelings might be saying to you - (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

Joy is a bit thin on the ground at the moment, isn’t it? So many of us are feeling overwhelmed by individual and collective sadness and grief, with longings for change going unmet and unaddressed.

It’s like the whole world is in a state of mourning and we don’t know how to get through it or where to find joy anymore. Or maybe we do. Perhaps joy is much closer to home than we anticipate.

Indoors with our loved ones, or just outside our window, perhaps, even if we can’t see a great deal because it resembles a concrete jungle. You may be wondering: What kind of joy can those things bring to me?

More than you might think, my friend. Due to decades of being housebound by chronic illness, and suffering episodes of depression, I try to discover any window, any opening to joy I can find.

I seek to focus on my heart’s longing for joy and what encourages it to flourish, which means looking at the simple, small, and often overlooked. And it includes developing a deeper gratitude for my loved ones.

window - wildflowers - I seek to focus on my heart's longing for joy quote (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

Longings

Window watcher that I am,
let my gaze linger with sacred awe
longer than before,

to truly see each tree
and flower and leaf as portents
of hope and promise.

I want to drain
the last ounce of joy I find
in every day,

drink the cup dry of it,
keep memories as dregs.

I long to hold
the wonder found right here
and right now,

like a fragile butterfly,
let it loose to climb the sky.

I seek to find
the holy ordinary
in people, trees

and leaves, clouds, fiery sunsets,
in everything light reflects.

I desire to dream
with intentionality,

let purpose unfold
like a story I have known,
full of hope beyond this world.

I yearn to touch
earthly things stamped with grace,

trace God’s footprints,
sense them moving in my soul,
where I will never grow old.
© joylenton

window - butterfly - longings poem excerpt (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

The view outside my window is far from scenic, but I do take pleasure in watching sky changing colour, seeing variable shape and type of clouds, noting emergence of greening tips and flowers on plants or observing a solitary tree as its leaves alter with the seasons.

Even a concrete wall can be interesting because it attract insects, has different patterns of stone within it or changes shade, depending on where the light falls and catches it.

Having chronic illness has taught me not to despise the tiny, mundane things of life. Whether in lockdown or not, it helps to appreciate the blessings before us rather than dwell on what we’ve lost.

Your longings are a window into your soul too. What are you longing for, my friend? Where are you experiencing your longings being met in these challenging times? May the joy of the Lord be our strength today, and always.

PS: This post was inspired by Chronic Joy Ministry’s Poetry Prompt: Windows and TreesDo check out their great resources! 🙂 ❤

window - longings - solo poppy - wooden fence - having chronic illness quote (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com